Just like my father before me, I’m able to serve in the army and give back to my country.

As Muslims, Bedouin are exempt from Israel’s mandatory draft. In this personal letter by Sgt. Haitham, a Bedouin soldier talks about following in his father’s footsteps by volunteering for IDF service.

“I was two months old when my father died while serving in the IDF. I never knew him. I have no memories of him, just pictures. But, from the stories that I’ve heard, I can imagine just how similar we would have been. They tell me that I don’t just look like him, I act like him too. ‘Your father was never able to say no to anyone,’ they say. “He never stopped giving.” I’m sure that I inherited this trait from him.

My father served in the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion on the northern border. As a Bedouin, he didn’t have to draft. I followed in his footsteps and, like him and many others in my family, I chose to draft. For me, it was an obvious choice — this is my army. Israel is my country. I love it and I want to give back to it.

When I drafted and got to know the people around me, I discovered just how strong of an impression my father made on others. Everywhere I went, people knew him and had fond memories of “Kamil the tracker” — my father. One of my good friends that I met in the army mentioned that my last name sounded familiar, like he’d heard it before. It turned out that our fathers had served together. They were like brothers.

I wanted to serve in the Bedouin Trackers Unit like my father did. I wanted to continue his path, to serve in his unit. But I’m the youngest child, and my mother didn’t allow it. “I have no problem with you drafting,” she told me, “but there is no way that you are drafting to the Bedouin Trackers Unit.” I was disappointed, but I understood her reservations. Instead, I chose to serve where I was able, and today I serve in the IDF Logistics Center. I’m proud that, just like my father before me, I’m able to serve in the army and give back to my country.”

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